Today as in the past, the successful businessman is fashion conscious. It’s been proven countless times that dressing the part matters. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford custom tailored suits, one of a kind designer neckties, and Italian designer shoes by Prada. In fact, in the current economic crunch, it’s difficult to manage two or three suits, and a different suit for every day of the week is simply out of the question. Fortunately, with a little smart shopping, you don’t have to be a millionaire to look like a million bucks.
First of all, don’t think in terms of a full suit to start. Think separates, and think off the rack. At the same time, keep quality in mind. While I’m not endorsing or criticizing any retailer, my personal preference for business attire would be to avoid Wal-Mart and instead go to a well know retailer’s outlet stores. The Nordstrom Rack is a great way to hunt for bargains on shoes, shirts and suits. If the drive to the nearest outlets is too far, then looking for seasonal sales at your local men’s warehouse is another great alternative. Without too much searching you will be able to find brand-name jackets for as little as $99 and slacks for $59 or less. Yes, there are compromises.
Don’t just buy on price and quality. The fit has to be just right. Finding a perfecting fitting suit is almost impossible and you should leave a little room in your budget for some minor alterations. Pants almost always need to be tailored to the right length. This is a very easy thing to do that most retailers will offer at a minimal, or even no charge. After all, they want your business. When choosing a jacket, the most important thing is that it fits right on your shoulders and your neck. There must not be any folds near your neck area, and the jacket should fit slightly snug, but should allow for enough movement of your arms. Just as the pants’ length, the jacket’s sleeves will most need some minor adjustment. Again, another simple process that should only cost you between $8 to $12. Make sure that you get the tailoring done right away before even hanging your new suit in your closet. If the retailer doesn’t offer alterations, go straight from the store to your dry-cleaner or alteration place. Otherwise, once the suit is in your closet, you will never go back to ensuring the perfect fit.
Stick to blues or grays in your jackets and slacks. You’ll be glad you did when it comes to matching the shirt and tie. Add camel or khaki, later, if there’s room in your budget. Pin stripes are classy, but keep in mind that they may make the suit less versatile in terms of mixing and matching.
Shirts are normally considered one of the ways to add versatility. Dark and light colors, solids and stripes can all change the tone and the style off your suit. Remember, though, that we’re focused on business attire. One color stands out as wearable with any other color, always sharp, and always acceptable, and that color is white. If you feel the need to add some color here, solid light colors will present a more professional appearance. Try to buy according to neck and sleeve measurements, rather than SML, so you get a good fit. Button down collars are probably less versatile and are considered more casual, so point or tab collars are your best bet when building a business wardrobe on a budget. First quality, cotton/poly blend dress shirts can be found at many retailers for $20 to $35 and as low as $10 at some online stores.
That brings us to the one item that can expand your inexpensive business wardrobe the most. With your solid-colored shirts, you can choose from a multitude of colors, solids, stripes and printed designs. Again, remember that you’re working on a business wardrobe, so good taste is essential. While mens neck ties can be made with many materials, silk is traditionally considered the mark of a successful man’s wardrobe. Use your own judgment, but good quality men’s silk ties can be purchased online for $15.00 or less. That leaves room for a lot of variety, and a new look each day.
The simplest items in your wardrobe will be your belt and shoes. Fine leather and designer brands are nice, but just as with your suit shop while on sale or at outlet stores. Buy something comfortable, since you’ll be wearing them often, and basic black is your best color choice. Nice leather dress shoes on sale can be found as low as $40. Leather belts are about $20. If you really are on a budget, you can pick a reversible belt that offers both, a brown and a black belt for the price of one. Remember though that the color belt should match your shoe color.
Do the math! A complete business wardrobe consisting of 2 complete suits, 5 dress shirts, leather dress shoes with matching belt, and a variety of nice silk ties will cost you less than $800. Keep in mind that your objective here is to build that professional image that’s going to impress your clients and prospects today, which will set the foundation to provide you with the luxury of hand-tailored suits in the future.